Despite its long-ranging coastline, the United States Navy does not field a large number of coastal patrol boats for defense - mainly due to the lack of regional threats. One of the major classes in service for the role remains the Cyclone-class which numbers some fourteen total boats. The lead ship USS Cyclone (PC-1) was passed on to the Philippine Navy in March of 2004 (and subsequently renamed BRP Mariano Alvarez (PS-38). Several others have been passed into USCG ownership and since returned. USS Firebolt is an active member of the class, commissioned into service during 1995 and making its current homeport at Manama, Bahrain (otherwise this is Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia). She marks the tenth vessel of the group.
Ordered on July 19th, 1991, she was constructed by Bollinger Shipyards and saw her keel laid down on September 17th, 1993. She was launched on June 10th, 1994 and officially commissioned into the USN inventory on June 10th, 1995 where she maintains an active presence today (2016).
The boats are designed as coastal patrol boats so speed and agility, as well as a shallow draught, are requirements for defensive, interception-minded sorties in both deep water and shallow water operations. USS Firebolt carries a crew of thirty and is armed through 2 x 25mm Mk 38 chain guns, 2 x Mk 19 40mm Automatic Grenade Launchers (AGLs), up to 5 x 12.7mm Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs), 2 x 7.62mm M240B Medium Machine Guns (MMGs), 2 x BGM-176M "Griffin B" Surface-to-Surface Missile (SSM) quadruple launchers and Stinger Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) launchers (six total missiles carried). Power is from 4 x Paxman diesel-fueled engines driving 4 x shafts under stern. This propels the boat to speeds of 35 knots. Her structure showcases a length of 175 feet, a beam of 25 feet and a draught of 7.5 feet while displacing 335 tons.
The boat's side profile sees the bridge integrated into the forward superstructure in the usual way. This section is detailed through rectangular windows for viewing over and around the forecastle. The bow is only slightly raised for cutting through chop with a continuous hull line running from bow to stern. Hand rails are visible along the length of this line. Several other, smaller superstructures are fitted aft of the bridge section and an exposed mast is seated near midships, aft of the bridge. The armament at the forecastle is offered nearly 180 degrees of unobstructed firing views. She carries a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) for Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations as well as various infantry small arms for close-quarters combat.
After the events of 9/11, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom Iraq were launched by the United States and its "Coalition of the Willing". This led to USS Firebolt being re-stationed to waters off Bahrain, a U.S. ally in the Middle East region. She survived a suicide bombing in April of 2004 off the Iraqi coast but three perished.